Tony Stewart watches practice Friday at Richmond International Raceway. (Chris Graythen / Getty Images )
It's been a rough week for Tony Stewart, and it wasn't getting much better Friday for the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion.
Stewart also is co-owner of his Stewart-Haas Racing team, and earlier this week Office Depot said it was dropping its primary sponsorship of Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet after this season.
"It is a big void," Stewart told reporters at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, site of Saturday night's Cup race, according to a transcript provided by Chevrolet.
"It's part of a bad economy," he said. "Been listening to all the politicians speak about how they are going to make things different. I haven't seen anything get any better yet.
"I understand as a business owner what they are faced with," Stewart said of Office Depot. "You can't blame them." Office Depot is one of two primary sponsors on Stewart's car; the other is Mobil 1 motor oil.
In addition, Stewart's car was relatively slow in practice Friday on the three-quarter-mile Richmond track. "We are just bad right now," he said.
Stewart is 10th in the Cup standings and, with three wins this season, he's assured of being one of the 12 drivers in NASCAR's 10-race Chase for the Cup title playoff that starts the week after the Richmond race.
Stewart surged to his third Cup championship during last year's Chase, when he won five of the 10 races.
But this year, "I'm not even worried about the next 10 weeks because I can't even get through this week," Stewart said. "We are just frustrated right now."
Man steals baseball from fourth grader at Marlins game
Purdue to honor Neil Armstrong with decal on football helmets
Doctor says A's pitcher Brandon McCarthy could have died from injury